Author : Patricia Stewart, Staff Writer

“This is Captain Thomas Rider of the Starship Dunkirk. What’s the nature of the emergency?”

“This is Governor Wingfield of the Constant. We had a core breach, and had to jettison the reactor. We’re operating on minimum life support. Not sure how long we can hang on. We have over 2000 colonists aboard.”

“Understood Governor. Can I speak to the captain?”

“The captain was in Engineering during the explosion. He was killed. I’ve taken command.”

“That’s not the protocol Governor. Command cedes to the next ranking Bridge Officer.”

“I chartered this ship, Captain. I’m in command.”

No sense debating this now, thought Rider. I’ll sort it out when we get there. “Here’s the situation,” he said, “The Dunkirk is only a scout ship with a crew of 15. In an emergency, we can carry an additional 30 adults, or 70-some children. We’ll be arriving at your position in eight hours. Have the evacuees ready for transfer. More ships are on the way, but won’t arrive for at least a week. Can the colonist survive until then?”

“It’ll be close, Captain. We’ll have your passengers ready when you arrive.”

Eight hours later, the Dunkirk docked to the primary cargo hold of the Constant. When Captain Rider walked through the docking hatch, he spotted 18 adults, 10 children, and six large crates. “What’s going on here?”

A large man walked up to the captain and handed him a list. “I’m Wingfield,” he said. “These are the evacuees. They were chosen by lottery.”

The captain studied the list. “How fortunate, Governor. It appears that you and your staff hit the lottery. What’s in the crates?”

“Our valuables. We won’t leave without them.”

“Well, you got that much right, Governor. Ensign Stahler, bring a security team out here and escort the Governor’s administration to the far side of the hangar. If any of them approaches the hatch, shoot them. Lieutenant Hathaway, find the ranking bridge officer.”


Captain Rider was studying the passenger manifest when the Constant’s First Officer was escorted into his Ready Room. “I don’t want to play god,” stated Rider without preamble, “but I’m going to.” This is a list of the children by weight. Starting with the lightest, gather the children until you reach 2000 kilograms. If the parents want to keep the family together and hope for the next rescue ship, fine. Skip them. Understood?”

Several hours later, 83 children were being escorted onto the cargo hold. The first officer explained, “It could have been 85 children, but I needed to keep two here so I could send enough baby formula to feed the ten infants. But Captain, I need to ask you a favor. Can you leave us a few weapons, in case the governor decides to be more resourceful next time?”

Ensign Stahler, who had been eavesdropping, spoke up. “That won’t be necessary, Captain. Lanyi and I would like to volunteer and stay behind and maintain order until the other ships get here. Beside, it’ll give you room to take another four or five children.”

“Ensign, you understand that the next ship might not arrive in time?”

“Aye, sir. We’ll take our chances.”

The captain nodded, and the first officer headed off to the passenger section.

An hour later, Captain Rider returned to the bridge of the Dunkirk. Children were huddled in the nooks and crannies. Some were crying, some were whimpering, all of them were scared. The captain forced a reassuring smile. “Mr. Cunard, maximum warp. Let’s see if we can make the round trip in record time.”


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